Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland is a beautiful narrative of the human spirit that has more to say about reality than fiction. Of all the films we have reviewed, this one seems the most grounded. The film closely follows one character, which creates a solitary and documentary-like quality to the story. As a result, it allows Chloe Zhao to explore the depths of loss and recovery. All of these qualities come together to form one of the most human stories of the year.
Nomadland stems from the non-fiction book of the same title written by Jessica Bruder. While the film tells a fictionalized story, it relies on actual experiences that keep it grounded. The film’s production style fits perfectly with that vision. The camera closely follows Fern (Francis McDormand) on her cross-country travels. It often maintains a tight, close-quarters frame so that Fern is visually central. Shots that take place in her van emphasize the intimacy of her journey. She never strays too far from the camera, and it captures every bit of emotion she expresses.
Dealing With Loss
The story of Nomadland avoids a typical ABC plotline. Tragedy does not lead to triumph or vice-versa. Zhao and Bruder avoid highlighting the tragedy itself. The story lies within the struggle itself. It is all about Fern’s journey within it. We get the ups and downs of her journey through grief and loss. That intimate psychological journey compliments her physical journey through the country. While the film never gives a definitive resolution, it does highlight the comfort it brings to some who live like nomads and find peace.
A Human Journey
Another critical element of the film is its incredibly human story. It allows for people of any background to connect with the characters in Nomadland. The human struggles, triumphs, and beauty of the relationships highlight the complex appeal of the story. The film includes actors and non-actors in a blend of fiction and non-fiction. The story is soo compelling that the two are often indistinguishable. The themes of loss and renewal are just a few among many that you will find. It all weaves together to tell a story that we can all connect with and appreciate.